A cross-border telemarketing enterprise has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their business tactics violated the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). Under the settlement, they will pay full redress to consumers, totaling $1.85 million, and stop their illegal practices, including falsely promising consumers a “guaranteed” low-interest credit card for an advance fee, calling people whose telephone numbers are registered on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, and failing to pay the required annual fee to access DNC-listed numbers.
The settlement follows an FTC complaint filed in November, 2004, when a federal court issued a temporary restraining order halting the defendants’ illegal activities, freezing their assets, and appointing a receiver to take over their operation. The FTC alleged that 3R Bancorp and its co-defendants operated boiler rooms in the United States, Canada, and India that targeted consumers with poor credit, falsely claiming they were pre-approved for a credit card with a low interest rate and a high credit limit, with no security deposit required regardless of their credit history. As alleged in the FTC’s complaint, the defendants collected substantial up-front fees from consumers but never delivered the promised credit cards.
Under the settlement, defendant Ranbir Sahni and his “3R” companies are permanently banned from marketing or selling any credit-related products, programs, or services. All the settling defendants are permanently prohibited from making misrepresentations about any products or services, and from violating the TSR. Defendants covered by the settlement are 3R Bancorp, 3R e-Solutions, Inc.; 3R E-Solutions Corporation; National United Properties, LLC; 3R Real Estate Corporation; E Three R Info Systems Pvt. Ltd.; Ranbir Sahni; and John Perton.
Many of the telemarketing calls in this case originated from the defendants’ call centers in Canada and India. The FTC received substantial assistance from the Toronto Strategic Partnership, a cross-border fraud law enforcement partnership which, in addition to the FTC, includes the Competition Bureau Canada, the Toronto Police Service – Fraud Squad, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, the Ontario Provincial Police – Anti-Rackets, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading.
The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is committed to ensuring compliance with the National Do Not Call Registry. To date, the Bureau has brought 27 law enforcement actions for various DNC-related violations. Consumers can register their phone number on the Registry either online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236) from the number they wish to register.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the stipulated final order was 5-0 on May 8, 2006. It was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on May 17, 2006.
What Consumers Should Know
- Legitimate offers of credit do not require an up-front payment. Although legitimate lenders may charge application, appraisal, or credit report fees, the fees generally are taken from the amount borrowed. Here are some tips from U.S. and Canadian law enforcers on how consumers can avoid being taken by advance-fee scams:
- Don’t pay for the promise of a loan. It’s illegal for companies doing business by phone in the U.S. to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver. Requiring advance fees for loans also is illegal in Canada.
- Ignore any ad – or hang up on any caller – that guarantees a loan in exchange for a fee in advance.
- Remember that legitimate lenders never guarantee or say that you will receive a loan before you apply, or before they have checked out your credit status or contacted your references, especially if you have bad credit or no credit record.
- Don’t give your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number on the telephone, by fax, or via the Internet unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Don’t make a payment to an individual for a loan; no legitimate lending organization would make such a request.
- Don’t wire money or send money orders for a loan through Western Union or similar companies. You have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction. Legitimate lenders don’t pressure you to wire funds.
- If you are not absolutely sure who you are dealing with, get the company’s number in thephone book or from directory assistance, and call it to make sure you’re dealing with the company you think you are. Some scam artists have pretended to be the Better Business Bureau or another legitimate organization.
If you live in the U.S. and think you’ve been a victim of an advance-fee loan scam, report it to the FTC online at www.ftc.gov or by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Check out questionable ads by calling Project Phonebusters in Canada toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. For more information on how to avoid a scam and how to obtain a legitimate credit card instead, see the FTC's brochures on "Advance-Fee Loan Scams: ‘Easy’ Cash Offers Teach Hard Lessons" at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/telemarketing/tel16.shtm and "Ready, Set, Credit" at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/young/readycrdt.htm
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the legal documents associated with these cases are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Office of Public Affairs
Guy G. Ward
FTCs Midwest Region, Chicago